Automatic Reload

Tor: Starscape. May 2020. 304p. ISBN 9781250168214. pap. $16.99. SF
When Mat mustered out of the military due to an injury, he began body-hacking. At first he simply replaced the limb he lost with cybernetic hardware, but when he realized his cybernetics were faster and more accurate as weapons, he replaced them all and became one of the top body-hackers in the world. He used his military knowledge and cybernetics to carve out a career as a mercenary. When he’s offered $3 million for two hours’ work, he jumps at it, because cybernetics repair and replacement is expensive. All he has to do is help a bloodthirsty body-hacker and crew protect a shipment. Despite his careful planning, they’re attacked and he discovers the cargo is Silvia, a woman who’s undergone some involuntary biological enhancements. Mat can’t leave an innocent civilian behind even if she’s stronger, faster and more bulletproof than he is, and he just might be falling for her, even as a bloodthirsty organization hunts them relentlessly.
VERDICT Steinmetz (The Sol Majestic) delivers a “rom-com with explosions” featuring a hero with PTSD and control issues, and a killer heroine with a panic disorder. The action is nonstop, with issues of mental illness, identity, and humanity woven subtly throughout. Mat breaks the fourth wall in his random musings, rather like a cyborg Deadpool. Recommended for libraries looking for a deliciously over-the-top adventure.

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